Imagine seeing sixty people talking endlessly about audience development, engagement, targets and cultural impact one afternoon on the terrace of the Museo Egizio in Turin. And hearing an ancient Egyptian gong every twenty minutes.
No, it’s not a hallucination caused by the summer heat, but the outcome of the development of skills regarding at least a slice of the Italian cultural sector, made possible in part thanks to the Open tender run by the Compagnia di San Paolo.
In fact, we’ve just taken part as audience development experts in the “Audience Development è Innovazione Sociale” event organised by the Osservatorio Culturale del Piemonte and the Compagnia di San Paolo.
What is Audience Development?
— luisella carnelli (@lucarnelli) June 21, 2017
The morning of the event, with the public part taking place at the Piccolo Teatro Regio, succeeded in putting together an overview of truly diverse and yet complementary approaches to the subject. It began with the stringent (and necessary) “Study on Audience Development. How to place audiences at the centre of cultural organisations”, presented by Luisella Carnelli, which explores more than thirty case studies across Europe, identifying common features in the approach to audiences. We like to imagine a cultural organisation that has never heard of audience development before now, picturiong it as it comes across the page of the study that describes how their audience is divided into three: by habit, by choice, by amazement. The fact that audience development is also strategically important for city cultural policies was confirmed by Zaragoza and Warsaw, which respectively presented an integrated plan involving public and private organisations and a comprehensive audience survey. In San Salvario (Turin) this is covered by a private organisation, the Agenzia per lo Sviluppo Locale di San Salvario Onlus, which puts itself forward as a “threshold space” for the community: we recommend reading this to find out more about it. The morning ended with ideas from the part of Europe that has practised audience development for fifty years now. Stephen Audley from Queens University, Belfast, running from one side of the stage to the other to add to his tiredness from a long journey, led us to reflect on opposing concepts with regard to expanding cultural usage: first and foremost, the democratisation of culture vs. the cultural democracy.
“A big mistake made by UK was to confuse making culture available with making it accessible.” Stephen Audley #ADeinnovazione #opencsp pic.twitter.com/0nror6jdKK — Strategie Culturali (@BAMstracult) June 21, 2017
An Open Speed-Date!
Workshop with the winners of the Open Tenders, the qualified intermediaries and the potential financial backers and cultural representatives. Let the work begin! #adèinnovazione #opencsp pic.twitter.com/AlnXq5IRyR
— Compagnia San Paolo (@CSP_live) June 21, 2017
Back to the roof of the Museo Egizio.
Libraries and archives, museums, cinemas, popular culture, circuses, education centres, music festivals: these are the cultural environments involved in the seven projects (with their respective links) that we learned more about during the afternoon … while our Open partners Amici di Casa Jorn presented Museo Senior to as many cultural representatives.
Here are some of the reflections triggered by these meetings, in random order:
- we’re not sure whether audience development is always social innovation. However, we’re convinced that for some organisations working in an innovative fashion in the social sector, the cultural solution is the one that makes it possible to talk about all-round social inclusion.
- the importance of going beyond intuition and openly stating the desire to change. Projects with very specific and limited targets need to take all the time necessary to carry out studies, talk with people and ask for feedback. They run the risk of being carried away by the enthusiasm of involving a certain audience and then not actually meeting its needs.
- there are lots of local, social and participatory projects. Although they’re all very different, they all focus on intangible cultural heritage, which then acts as a vehicle for tangible cultural heritage throughout the area. We got a badge from the Rete Italiana di Cultura Popolare that speaks very plainly in this sense: “I deal culture”